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By James Heneghan and Bruce McBay
Illustrated by Geraldo Valerio
For Ages 5-9
Elisa Gutiérrez won honorable mention in the 2005 Alcuin Awards for excellence in book design in Canada.
"These animal stories with a difference will appeal to any child developing a sardonic sense of humour." Michael Thorn, The Educational Supplement Magazine [United Kingdom]
bit of black humour for primary school age kids who will appreciate the
tongue-in-cheek tales of Uncle Possum in the Nannycatch Meadows. Poor
Uncle Possum! Or should we say: poor animal folk of Nannycatch who have
to put up with him. In the spirit of Uncle Remus, young readers will delight
in this cheeky tale.
in Brazil, Geraldo Valério also lives in Vancouver, BC. He began
his career in children’s publishing with A Cobra Zola,
published by Le Publishing House and recently illustrated Do You Have
a Hat? for Simon and Schuster Books for Young People.
FROM STACIE EDGAR, CM MAGAZINE (September 29, 2006). Recommended, ***/4 stars. At some point in their young lives, many children become preoccupied with a genuine curiosity surrounding death and dying. They wonder why it happens and sometimes have many questions. Although some adults would like to shield children from the hurt and pain caused by death, a natural interest and sometimes anxiety around the topic should be addressed or at the very least discussed. With the influence of television and video games that treat death and dying as a by-product of enjoyment, there needs to be a safe arena for children to discuss and question such a natural part of life. While this book may not have all the answers, it could begin a dialogue where children safely question their own mortality/ [Nannycatch Chronicles] is entertaining and fast-moving, which may keep children interested and engaged. Ideally, this book could be read aloud at home and/or at school where parents and teachers could discuss the content. However, even if a child were to read it on her/his own with no outside support, there are no explicit blood and gore scenes like those that one may find on television. Stacie Edgar recently graduated from the University of Winnipeg and currently teaches in the Winnipeg School Division.
FROM SARAH O'LEARY, THE VANCOUVER SUN (March 11, 2006) Spring Break survival kit: Just add children and stir. This is a good choice for emerging readers: It may keep them from emerging from their rooms for hours at a stretch. It’s also a great choice for reading aloud to smaller folk. Nannycatch Chronicles are gentle little stories about the denizens of Nannycatch Meadows. But the real twist is that many of the stories are about death. As an authors’ note at the beginning warns, “Young readers . . . should guard against this book falling into the hands of grownups, many of whom get quite upset whenever the subject of death is mentioned.” This may make the book sound morbid, but it’s anything but. These are captivating little episodes in the lives of anthropomorphized Possum and his friends, who sometimes behave like humans (taking in other animals from the forest after a great disaster) and sometimes behave like the creatures they are (Ferret takes in a family of 48 homeless earwigs and then feasts upon them).
FROM BC BOOK WORLD (2005). When children outgrow Piglet and Eeyore at the House of Pooh Corner, now there’s a nearby place to learn—gently—that everything in this world doesn’t always turn out all right in the end. It’s called Nannycatch Meadows. And it’s in the Great Forest, across from Grotty Bottom, which is located between Sheepshank Knott and Pokey Edge. You can’t miss it because James Heneghan and Bruce McBay have put a map at the outset of Nannycatch Chronicles. The marvellous place names of that map, such as Boggle Hole, Biskey Fen and Pussytoe Hollow, are derived from real villages that Heneghan and his wife discovered in the north of England during a recent walking tour. Having collaborated with McBay on several books already, Heneghan was happy to lend his list of places to the process of creating an unusual chapter book about an unassuming possum and his decidedly nasty uncle. The drawings by Geraldo Valério are comfortingly familiar, teensy etchings of Chief Moose, a tea pot, Chipmunk, Robin and Bear. But the amusing and concise storylines in Nannycatch Chronicles are a tad different. More than a few of the charming critters die. Or rather, they get killed. Sometimes not entirely by accident, usually because Uncle Possum is as careless as he is callous. The Nannycatch News carries the UPSETTING news but it appears nobody can do much about such things. Death, like a well-known four-letter word, happens. Good-hearted Possum can’t fix his Uncle Possum’s temper. “Uncle’s heart grows nastier and meaner every year,” he says. “He yells at babies, he doesn’t believe in Christmas or coloured crayons or bubblegum, and he never plays any games. Uncle Possum doesn’t know the meaning of fun.” As a radical measure, Possum arranges for his uncle to have a heart operation to get it fixed. “If the operation is a success,” says Chipmunk, “perhaps your uncle will become a vegetarian like us.” But no such luck. In Nannycatch, whimsy is seldom rewarded. The procedure fails and Uncle Possum remains as cantankerous as ever. A new highway is built by humans, making refugees of Possum’s friends. He tries to help everyone, heroically saving Old Weasel’s life. But fatal and near-fatal accidents continue. Skunk is killed when Uncle Possum hurls a book at him. Forced to try swimming, Swallow drowns. “Swallow swallowed a lot of water,” notes Woodpecker. Nannycatch Meadows, like the real world, is a charming but dangerous place.